Friday, October 2, 2009
Read your book closely. Read carefully. Read repeatedly.
When I began self-publishing, I had a lot to learn so I bought about 40 books about publishing.
Many of the books about self-publishing were self-published or published by vanity presses. Many of them were extremely ugly.
They had terrible typography.
The worst sin was bad justification.
Type is said to be "justified" when all of the lines of type in a paragraph (except for the first line if indented, and the last line) are the same width, and extend from the left margin to the right margin.
Some self-publishers are content to merely dump words onto pages and rely on their software to arrange the words properly.
That's not enough.
A book needs a human touch.
You must CAREFULLY examine each line so you can improve justification by changing words and hyphenation.
It's a lot of work and takes a lot of time to do it right -- but it's the right way to produce a book. There's no easy way. There's no shortcut. You must invest the time to go line-by-line, over and over again, or your book will look like crap.
Bad justification is one of the most obvious signs of amateur publishing. Every book has some problems with justification. Self-publishers seem to have many more problems with justification than professionals do -- and the self-pubbers may not even know that they goofed.
A self-publisher has an extra burden to produce a high-quality product. Self-pubbed books are initially suspect and must prove their legitimacy, and a bad self-pubbed book reflects badly on other self-publishers. Ironically, the ugliest and worst-written book I’ve ever seen tries to give advice to self-publishers. It was apparently never edited, or checked by its vanity publisher.
The limitations of the Internet create the need for typographic compromises. As people get used to typographic abominations online, those abominations may become more acceptable in print. However, just because you can get away with ugliness, it doesn’t mean you should.